Tuesday evening’s weather was quite the contrast to the last Wrigley Field game before that — Sunday, May 7 against the Yankees, when temperatures were in the low 40s with a strong wind blowing off Lake Michigan.
For this game beginning a 10-game homestand, temperature at game time was 87 with a 20 mile-per-hour wind gusting toward center field, hinting that multiple home runs might leave the yard.
Hitters did not disappoint. Seven home runs departed the premises Tuesday night. Fortunately, four of those blasts were hit by Cubs batters, leading the team to a 9-5 win over the Reds, an excellent start to an important sequence of games at Wrigley.
It didn’t start off that way. Zack Cozart hit John Lackey’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field bleachers, yet another first-inning run off Cubs pitching. That one didn’t need any help from the wind, either.
But the Cubs put together a nice rally in the bottom of the inning off Bronson Arroyo, which included a pair of walks, an RBI single by Jeimer Candelario, and a double by Willson Contreras with the bases loaded. That one got stuck in the ivy so it scored only two runs instead of clearing the bases.
Still, the Cubs had a 3-1 lead. Another Reds homer in the second off Lackey made it 3-2 and then Kyle Schwarber did this:
5544-inch tater.— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 17, 2017
There's got to be a better way to measure that. pic.twitter.com/OZkEDG3Q82
That home run landed in the last row of seats just in front of the right-field porch. Had the previous bleacher structure been in place, that ball would have landed on the east side of Sheffield, well across the street. Fun facts about Schwarber’s blast:
Longest #Cubs HR this season (via statcast)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 17, 2017
462' Schwarber tonight
451' Bryant 4/15
449' Bryant 4/28
434' Heyward 4/21
431' Schwarber 4/18
Schwarber's home run is the 50th the #Cubs have hit against the Reds since the beginning of the 2016 season (this is the 23rd game)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 17, 2017
Cubs hitters have just loved Reds pitching over the last year-plus. The Reds brought the game to within one run again with a fourth-inning run that scored on a wild pitch by Lackey, but the Cubs got that run back in the fifth thanks to another long ball:
Ian Happ’s second home run of the year (and he has only 10 at-bats) did have a bit of push from the wind, but it counted nevertheless. Cubs gameday personnel brought the fan who caught the ball, Happ’s first Wrigley homer, downstairs from the right-field bleachers and got it back for Happ in exchange for some swag.
Happ started the game in center field. He looked somewhat tentative out there, not surprising for someone playing his first game in an unfamiliar ballpark at a position that’s not his best, but he made every play he had to.
The Cubs increased their lead to 7-3 in the sixth. Kris Bryant, who came back from what was described as “pneumonia” with a 2-for-4 day, doubled in a run and Happ had the second RBI with a bases-loaded walk. Just as other Cubs rookies over the last couple of years (Schwarber, Contreras) called up mid-season due to injuries forced their way into sticking around by good play, Happ is going to make decisions tough for Theo & Co. when everyone’s healthy. Fun fact about Happ:
Ian Happ: First #Cubs player to hit HR in first MLB home game AND first MLB road game since Carmelo Martinez in 1983— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 17, 2017
Three more homers left the yard. The first was by Joey Votto with a man on in the seventh off Koji Uehara that made the score 7-5. Then solo blasts from Addison Russell (again, a bit wind-aided) in the bottom of the seventh and Anthony Rizzo (no wind help there!) in the eighth gave the Cubs a four-run cushion. The four homers were a season high for the Cubs.
And for those thinking that the Cubs haven’t been patient enough at the plate or not walking enough: the four walks drawn by the Cubs Tuesday evening gave them 159 for the season. That leads the National League and is an average of 4.18 per game, a pace for 678. If the Cubs can keep up that pace it would break the franchise record, set last year. Entering Tuesday’s game the Cubs were third in the N.L. in pitches per plate appearance at 3.94.
Wade Davis had been warming up in anticipation of a save situation with the score 8-5. He came in anyway for the ninth, as Rizzo’s homer came with two out and no time to get anyone else ready. There are times that closers lose focus when it’s not an official save situation, but nothing seems to bother Davis. He allowed a one-out single in the ninth, but otherwise got out of the inning unscathed. Davis has not allowed an earned run (one unearned scored off him Friday in St. Louis) this year, covering 16⅓ innings. He’s walked only five and struck out 21.
It’s early to think about this, but I would not be opposed to extending Davis for a couple of years depending on what he’d be looking for contract-wise. If the Cubs do let Davis walk, they’d have to be really, really sure Carl Edwards Jr. (who threw a scoreless inning Tuesday) is ready to close.
Congratulations to Joe Maddon on his 1,000th win as a manager. He joins Bruce Bochy, Dusty Baker, Mike Scioscia, Buck Showalter, Terry Francona, Clint Hurdle and Ned Yost as an active manager with 1,000 or more wins, and his total ranks 63rd on the all-time manager list. By the end of the year Maddon should be close to the top 50. Among Cubs managers, Maddon has the second-highest winning percentage (.607) of any manager with 200 or more games managing the team. Only Frank Chance (.664) ranks higher.
Maddon should be over 1,200 wins by the time his Cubs contract is up, and it’s conceivable that deal could be extended a year or two. Managing the team that broke the World Series drought probably has him already ticketed to Cooperstown, but another WS win would likely clinch that. Now that would be an induction speech worth hearing.
The win evened up the Cubs’ record at 19-19 and, with the Cardinals’ loss to the Red Sox, brought the Cubs back to within 2½ games of first place, and continued the Cubs’ dominance of the Reds since the beginning of last year:
#Cubs 2016-17 vs Reds (updated - 23 games; 18-5 record)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 17, 2017
7.61 runs/game, .284/.377/.531, 53 Home Runs
Let’s hope that continues Wednesday night. Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs and old friend Scott Feldman for the Reds.